It’s February and love is in the air! Or is that blood? Hard to tell. The tipping point from lovers to enemies is a grey area best explored through films of horror-romance. Such movies offer relatable—and sexy—perspective on matters of bloodlust and the still-beating heart.
Classics like Bride of Frankenstein (1935) show us monsters need love, too. Reanimated tissue can be surprisingly comforting on a lonely night. Hellraiser (1987) weaves a fleshy tale about a sultry brother-in-law in need of a blood sacrifice. Family is so important. Basic Instinct (1992) reminds us that it’s okay to murder your lover if it helps you finish writing your novel (a challenging project!).
Sex and murder are muses for art. In death, there is love. In love, there is blood and insecurity and teeth-gritting and gore. It just makes sense. Perhaps these concepts are best summarized in French writer Octave Mirbeau’s timeless quote, “Murder is born of love, and love attains the greatest intensity in murder.”
What better time to explore the horrific aspects of relationships than the month of Valentine’s Day? Here are 12 horror-romance films to get you started.
Bones and All
Cannibalism has never been so tragically beautiful as in Luca Guadagnino’s 2022 film, Bones and All. Starring Timothée Chalamet (Lee) and Taylor Russell (Maren), this tasty movie morsel reflects on the challenges of being a young-and-in-love cannibal on the road. Wanderlust and bloodlust combine as outsider-lovers navigate their need to consume human flesh to survive.
Writer-director Andrzej Zulawski’s 1981 film, Possession, weaves a disturbing tale of a marriage falling apart. When Mark (Sam Neill) informs Anna (Isabelle Adjani) he wants a divorce, Anna’s behavior becomes increasingly bizarre and hysterical. The difficulty of their separation is highlighted by a series of strange incidents, including one with an electric carving knife.
Megan Fox stars as Emma in S.K. Dale’s 2021 film, Til Death, a film about a woman struggling in an abusive marriage. After falling for another man, she is forced to navigate her husband’s gruesome revenge plan. This fast-paced horror-thriller comments on the difficulty of leaving a toxic relationship and involves creative reuse of an old wedding dress.
A Wounded Fawn
A weekend trip with a hot new lover goes terribly wrong in Travis Stevens’s 2022 surrealist horror film, A Wounded Fawn. Meredith (Sarah Lind) is a museum curator who goes away with a new beau, Bruce (Josh Rubin), only to discover Bruce has stolen an important piece of sculpture. The weekend devolves into an insane, blood-drenched disaster reminiscent of Italian Giallo films.
Florence Pugh (Dani) and Jack Reynor (Christian) play a couple on the verge of breakup in writer-director Ari Astor’s 2019 film, Midsommar. Dani has suffered a horrific tragedy and is struggling to pick up the pieces when she travels with Christian and his friends to a rural Swedish village during a mid-summer festival. The villager’s unusual traditions force Dani to confront the reality of her deteriorating relationship while offering inspiring—and terrifying—opportunities for her to start anew.
The Man With Two Brains
Steve Martin and Kathleen Turner star in Carl Reiner’s 1983 tale of romance-gone-wrong. Martin plays a famous and arrogant brain surgeon, Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr, and Turner is his femme fatale, Dolores. This macabre comedy is part retelling of Rebecca, part retelling of Frankenstein, and all parts insane—in the best possible way.
The Love Witch
Writer-director Anna Biller’s dark yet humorous 2016 film, The Love Witch, tells the story of Elaine Parks (Samantha Robinson), a modern-day witch on a relatable quest in search of love. She attempts to use her powers to make men fall in love with her, but her spells often conjure tragedy.
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s 2014 film, Spring, is a dark love story about a young man, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci), who travels to Italy and falls for an unusual local woman, Louise (Nadia Hilker). It soon becomes apparent that the mysterious Louise is keeping her true identity a secret.
A budding romance proves toxic in Mimi Cave’s 2022 directorial debut, Fresh. A young woman, Noa (Daisy Edgar Jones), goes away with a man, Steve (Sebastian Stan), whom she’s recently met. Having struggled with the perils of online dating, Noa is looking forward to a romantic weekend away but finds herself drugged and unable to escape.
Only Lovers Left Behind
Tilda Swinton (Eve) and Tom Hiddleston (Adam) play centuries-old vampire lovers in Jim Jarmusch’s 2013 film, Only Lovers Left Alive. In this moody horror-romance, Adam is a musician who has grown despondent and suicidal. His life is thrown into disarray with the arrival of Eve’s younger sister. The vampires must deal with the challenges posed by their blood-thirsty lives.
The confusion of young love is central in writer-director Lucky McKee’s strange and horrifying 2002 film, May. Angela Betis stars as May, an emotionally stunted veterinarian assistant trying to navigate the dating world. She meets Adam (Jeremy Sisto), a man with beautiful hands who initially seems charmed by her quirkiness. She misinterprets his intentions, and the love story turns violent. Anna Faris shines as May’s eccentric and flirtatious co-worker, Polly.
My Bloody Valentine
George Mihalka’s 1981 Valentine’s Day slasher takes place in a Canadian mining town. The town reinstates an annual Valentine’s Dance despite clear warnings not to proceed. Brutal killings commence, motivated by a decades-old tragedy.